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The Bees and trees project: Collaboration between startups and corporates

How to build a successful partnership between the right startup with the right corporate? Granlund took part in a two-year project and paired up with an early-stage startup Go Far-a-day.

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Many large companies, Granlund likewise, are interested in working with startups to attain new knowledge and inspiration. At the same time, startups with great ideas often lack the resources and expertise for wider implementation. In 2016, Demos Helsinki and Aalto University School of Business started The Bees and Trees project with GranlundS-ryhmäCoor, Bonava and several consumer-cleantech-startups to map the possibilities for cooperation between small and large companies in the field of consumer cleantech.

“The Bees and Trees project was interesting as Demos Helsinki offered to provide startup mapping. They would scan startups for us and recommend which ones were most suitable for our needs,” explains Granlund’s Technology Director Ken Dooley, who’s been taking part in the project since the beginning.

During the project Demos Helsinki also facilitated the cooperation between the large companies (‘trees’) and the startups (‘bees’): they made sure everyone was heard, that people were speaking the same language, and they set targets and deadlines.

“The facilitation role of Demos Helsinki was very valuable – the workshop events and the deadlines really helped to make the project a success,” Dooley says.

Business experiment: Don’t take the stairs

Granlund was mainly interested in technology startups that were working on IoT, open data, communication platforms, data integration, machine learning and artificial intelligence. In addition, the companies were expected to have some kind of link to the built environment.

The selected ‘bees’ were all early-stage startups that had a lot of potential and were focused on creating a feedback loop for building users. In the first innovation camp, in 2017, Granlund paired up with a pre-startup stage team Go Far-a-day.

Granlund and Go Far-a-day made together a demo called Don’t take the stairs. In the demo Granlund challenged its employees to avoid using the elevator for one month. Go Far-a-day organized the whole project and interacted with the building users using a simple technology: SMS messages. Over 200 employees took part in the campaign.

Bees and Trees manual: A guide to future partnerships

In the end of the project, Demos Helsinki did a review of the partnerships and the results of the experiments. The lessons learned are compiled and published in the Bees and Trees manual, which works as a guide for small companies in collaborating and creating future partnerships with larger actors.

The Bees and Trees manual and the executive summary, based on the research done throughout the project, were published on June 5th, 2018. The Bees and Trees project was a part of Tekes’ (known today as Business Finland) Cleanweb program.

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Don’t take the stairs -campaign by Granlund and Go Far-a-day

Building a Culture of Experimentation by Ken Dooley

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